Israel Supreme Court clears ways for accused paedophile Malka Leifer's extradition
Ms Leifer, 52, a former Melbourne Principal of the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick in Melbourne's inner south-east is charged with 74 counts of sex abuse against three of her former students.
Sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper accused Ms Leifer of repeatedly abusing them during her time as headmistress of the school between 2001 and 2008.
Ms Erlich said on Tuesday evening that now that Ms Leifer's return to Australia seemed imminent the sisters were limited in what they could say due to the pending charges, but that they were motivated by a desire to protect others in Ms Leifer's care in Isreal.
"At the end of the day we want to make sure that Malka Leifer receives a fair trial here in Australia, that’s all we want. We want to see justice happen," she told The Age on Tuesday night.
"It’s incredible to reach this point after so many years. We’ve always dreamed of it happening, we never gave up hope."
The ex-principal fled to Israel in 2008 after the allegations first emerged. The process to extradite her has stalled several times since charges were laid in 2013.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had previously met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, telling him the only just outcome was for Ms Leifer to face a jury of her peers.
Adass Israel Girls School was ordered to pay more than $1.1 million in damages to Ms Leifer's alleged victims in 2015.
In 2016, an Israeli judge found Ms Leifer mentally unfit to face extradition to Australia and she was set free.
But she was arrested in February 2018 after an undercover police investigation revealed she was leading a "normal life" and going about normal daily activities in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Emmanuel.
Attorney-General Christian Porter thanked Israeli authorities for representing the interests of Australia in the proceedings and acknowledged Mr Nissenkorn, for his public commitment to sign the extradition order without delay.
"The allegations against Ms Leifer are very serious and the Australian government remains strongly committed to ensuring that justice is served in this case," Mr Porter said.
"Although this latest development is a significant step forward – possibly the most positive steps thus far - in what has been a long process, there are still steps to be undertaken in Israel.
"Nevertheless this is a significant milestone which should provide alleged victims some hope that this part of the process to bring Ms Leifer to justice in Australia is edging closer to a conclusion."
Josh Burns, the Labor MP for Macnamara, the electorate where the school is located, congratulated the sisters for their determination in fighting for justice.
“They deserve their day in court. And they will finally get it,” Mr Burns said, “and even though it has taken, way, way too long, justice has prevailed.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said the government hoped Ms Leifer would soon be returned to Victoria to face the allegations.
“The fight for justice has been long and painful,” he said, “but it's now one step closer for these brave young women and their families.”
The Supreme Court's reported decision comes after a hearing on December 3 that lasted for more than an hour, where a panel of three judges heard Ms Leifer’s defence lawyers argue against her extradition with claims ranging from the technical to the “absurd”, one judge said.
If the extradition order is signed off by Justice Minister Nissenkorn, Ms Leifer’s extradition would mark the first time a citizen of Israel had been sent to Australia to stand trial.
Defence lawyer Nick Kaufman said in a statement after the Supreme Court's decision that they noted the court "acknowledged both Malka Leifer's mental health issues and that the unique nature of her religious way of life will present considerable difficulties for her in an Australian prison".
"These are considerations which, in our opinion, fully justified the long battle to safeguard her basic human rights,' Mr Kaufman said.
"In light of this, should Malka Leifer be convicted and sentenced to a custodial sentence, we hope that the relevant authorities will accede to a future request that she serve such a sentence in Israel".
The defence is allowed to file another appeal following the justice’s signature.
David Estcourt is a court and general news reporter at The Age.